Aoi Bungaku was a series which I knew nothing going into other than that it was short stories in anime form. It passed all expectations I had forged and has proven itself a must watch, well rounded in all categories.
Aoi is made up of several short stories spanning 12 episodes. I will give a review of them each individually though I must say that even the order in which these stories are placed is excellent. The first is an intense and heavy, nearly smothering experience which is followed by a story which begins much more lighthearted. Then a brilliant psychological but not lighthearted or overwhelmingly dark stimulates the brain. The last four episodes are different but just as visually appealing as the rest of the series which makes for a good wind down.
The first story "No Longer Human" is a brilliant piece. It follows a young man who can only view himself as a monster, but craves to be human. All the characters in these four episodes are excellently woven in, either to love or to hate them. If you are unable to sympathize with the character then this may not be the best story, and I confess there are a few scenes I would have omitted or changed to make everything more believable/watchable.
In the woods was one of my least favorite arcs in the series my first viewing. However the second time around I realized that it really wasn't awful. I enjoyed the comical aspects of these two episodes, an element that is not present in any other stories, which not only works here but is used to display elements of the plot.
Kokoro is genius and by far my favorite two episodes from Aoi. Each episode of the story is a different mans perspective on the same set of events. It is incredibly interesting to see how the same moment can be interpreted so differently and it leaves you to figure out exactly what happened! When I think of Aoi this is the story which comes to mind.
Run Melos is the weakest of the stories in Aoi. It is unfortunate as I very much enjoyed the narrative, which is split between a man's reality/memories and a play, used to tell two different but very similar stories. The extreme issue with this story is that the man's reality makes no sense. It is hard to explain without spoilers, but essentially he displaced himself due to a lie of a friend and proceeded to live in depression in Tokyo when he could have very easily just taken a train back. Not to mention the friends lie makes no sense and he could have achieved what he did in a much more logical manner.
The final stories, Spiders thread and Hell screen are not as thought provoking or interesting as much of the other tales. Both take place in the same universe but are separate stories. As it stands alone, Spiders Thread is enjoyable if you just appreciate the animation and the vulgarity of the main character. Hell Screen is ok, but the characters behave in such unbelievable ways I ended up just being able to appreciate the art.
The animation is varied and brilliant. The distinct art from the different stories reminds you it is a different story and keeps it very fresh, so you really don't feel any attachment between any of the unrelated stories. The soundtrack is brilliant and never failed to set the mood. The voice actors also do a good job especially considering one actor voices several different stories!
The main problem with most the characters in Aoi are that they are not given time to develop. The final two episodes feature such basic characters due to the fact they don't even have an episode to develop.
Yozo in No Longer Human is a character who suffers from time being spent on his development poorly. Half the time we see his ugly monster drawing following him around which doesn't actually serve as good character growth. Had there been more substance to his inclination to be emo he would have fit better in the awesome atmosphere of the episode and tone.
Kokoro's cast is brilliant however and by far the greatest gem of the series. The characters are interesting and multifaceted and create a story to which you must pay attention to grab all the details.
Run Melos' characters are terrible. They behave irrationally as I stated before, and when they act over emotional as a result of occurrences which make no sense it creates a wholly terrible experience.
For what it is, Aoi Bungaku is brilliant. It makes me wish there were more short story series out, as what I enjoyed in it I enjoyed very much. Other than the Melos arc even the underdeveloped stories fit into place, as enjoyable albeit not profound diversions. If you are looking for an anime and haven't seen this it is a MUST that you check it out, and at least give all the stories a chance.